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We are based in Jerusalem, the isolated capital of an occupied country, where disempowerment is used as a tool of displacement. Palestinians here face unlawful arrests, land confiscations and home demolitions while lacking proper economic development, infrastructure building and sufficient education and health systems. It’s all a part of Israel’s plans for Jerusalem: to keep a “demographic balance” of 70% Israeli and 30% Palestinian.

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At Grassroots Jerusalem, we contribute to the creation of a long-term Palestinian strategy for Jerusalem by amplifying the voices of Palestinian communities so that they set the agenda for the city, not the international community. For the last 5 years, we’ve been providing tools for Jerusalemites to share their vision for Jerusalem. We create maps, give tours, run an online platform, and host events and workshops at our hub: “al-Marsa” (The Harbour).

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Until now, Grassroots Jerusalem has received financial support mainly through project based, short-term and top down frameworks (except for our first core-funding grant). No relevant, efficient and lasting work can be concretely implemented with such limitations. Through our work with Palestinian communities and grassroots organisations, we have discovered that they share the same experience with international aid.

Since the Oslo agreement, the world through international aid has supported the imported “peace process.” This international aid primarily designs, coordinates and implements actions as if Palestine was a humanitarian crisis, a 67 year old emergency humanitarian crisis! Most of the civil services are provided by these unrepresentative entities to help the Palestinians merely survive under this occupation. While Palestinians expect the international community to focus on ending the occupation, this approach stifles the genuine grassroots movement organising to resist it.

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Development and advocacy in Jerusalem are dependent on international NGO (INGO) and UN humanitarian support. However, current programmes perpetuate the notion that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is a humanitarian disaster. They provide aid which helps Palestinians “survive under occupation,” not end it, which normalises military occupation and economic colonisation. This perception has kept long-term development stifled while granting consecutive Israeli governments carte blanche to develop mass settlements and neglect obligations to international law and occupied Jerusalem residents.

Palestinians expected the international community to support their struggle to end the occupation and ensure freedom and dignity. Instead, short-term projects using top-down frameworks, have prevented Palestinian leadership from strategising in sustainable ways and perpetuated the need for humanitarian aid. This cycle has created an “INGO industrial complex” that has become a rampant problem in the global South. It makes Palestinian civil society and grassroots leadership dependent on short term funding cycles for programmes with no coordinated vision that are authorised by international staff who are neither elected nor permanent residents of the city. The INGOisation of the occupation unintentionally draws the attention away from the real problem (occupation!) with increasingly privatised systems. It should be called what it is in the bigger picture: Benevolent Colonialism.

By implementing project-based, short-term plans and acting without accountability to the local community, the INGO industrial complex disempowers Palestinian leadership and organisations and inhibits the development of grassroots movements, long-term visions, and political change. Beyond the failure of the current model to effect systemic change, this model has spawned the unintended consequence of fostering a widespread, cynical soul and destroying independent initiative. It has cultivated a reliance on and expectation of the perpetuation of this type of outside assistance. In order to sustain our work, we must break from this limiting system of international aid by imagining alternative methods of sustainable funding.

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In the past, we have been forced to rely on short-term project-based grants fundamentally inconsistent with the needs of the Palestinian community and our organization’s vision.  If an authentic and sustainable change to the oppressive staus quo is to come, this must change. Your support today will plant the seeds of this future.  We know we can’t rely on you alone for support, but it will enable us to invest in diversified revenue streams that can sustain us into the future and serve as a model to our many grassroots partners.

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The money we raise will be used to publish the second edition of Wujood (our political tourist guide book on Jerusalem), complete our mapping project by publishing a comprehensive Jerusalem atlas, and train more Jerusalemite guides in order to expand our tours.

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Here’s where you come in. We know you don’t want to give us money and then have us come back around asking for more all the time. That’s why we’re asking you to dig a little deeper just this one time and help us speed toward economic independence.

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